Amsterdam (2022)

Despite its stellar cast made up of no fewer than five Oscar winners, three Oscar nominees, more than a handful of Emmy winners and nominees, and a crew stuffed with its fair share of industry recognition, Amsterdam is one of the biggest disappointments to come down the pike in quite some time – especially considering it is written and directed by a five-time(!) Oscar nominated filmmaker.

Though beautifully appointed with a stunning period production design that plops us right down in the middle of 1930’s New York City, writer/director David O. Russell misses on far too many critical aspects of this comedic thriller about love, loyalty, and the importance of learning to appreciate the joy of life. As the director of such applauded films as American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Fighter, Russell's missteps with Amsterdam are as unexpected as they are shocking.

"becomes a jumbled mess of half-baked thoughts, wildly disparate tones, and poorly executed themes"


As the film opens, we meet Christian Bale’s Dr. Burt Berendsen, a WWI veteran an M.D. advocating for the war’s sick and wounded. Bale has tons of fun with his wacky, fright-wigged, one-eyed Dr. Berendsen who looks and feels like a character straight out of a Marx Brothers film. Okay, you have our attention.

His best friend is war buddy Harold (John David Washington, Tenet), who he met while serving in Amsterdam during the war. Their friendship was forged by the crucible of war, so the two vowed to always help one another, no matter what. Washington plays his Harold straight, which actually works nicely against Bale’s eccentric Dr. Berendsen. Harold’s girlfriend is the free-spirited Valerie (Margot Robbie) - the couple's mixed-race relationship eventually playing into one of the film’s themes of racial intolerance back in the States.

As the three head back to the States post war, Harold and Dr. Bernendsen are pinned for the gruesome murder of one of Harold’s new clients (Taylor Swift), which suddenly lurches the comedy-driven character piece into noir murder mystery territory. Then, the mystery aspect is thrown aside when Russell flashes back to a lengthy segment covering how Berendsen and Harold met on the battle field, became injured in war, and were tended to by Harold’s eventual girlfriend.

Now flash forward, back to the original setting of ‘30s New York as we find Harold and Dr. Berendsen spending much of the film attempting to distance themselves from the murder and the subsequent investigation by a pair of corrupt New York police detectives.Amsterdam (2022)

Meanwhile they’ve also become somehow involved with Valerie’s wealthy industrialist brother Tom (Rami Malek), his controlling wife, Libby (Anya Taylor-Joy, TV’s The Queen’s Gambit), and a WWI general (Robert DeNiro) in one overly-complicated plot loosely based on an actual failed fascist scheme to overthrow the American Government.

If it sounds like a bloated plot and too much jumping around, that’s because it is. What should go down as smoothly as a Wes Anderson or Coen Brothers film, instead becomes a jumbled mess of half-baked thoughts, wildly disparate tones, and poorly executed themes involving friendship and love… or something like that.

The film is well-acted by its ensemble cast including Mike Myers, Andrea Wiseborough, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon, Zoe Saldana, Alessandro Nivola and others, beautifully shot – in fact, worthy of catching in IMAX format – by legendary cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, perfectly appointed by Judy Becker’s beautiful production design and J.R. Hawbaker’s period costume work. So, the problem isn’t with execution. Sadly and unexpectedly, the fault lies squarely with Russell who loses control of this monstrosity less than thirty minutes in. It’s all just a beautiful mess.

2/5 stars

 
Film Details

Amsterdam (2022)

MPAA Rating: R for brief violence and bloody images..
Runtime:
134 mins
Director
: David O. Russell
Writer:
David O. Russell
Cast:
Christian Bale; Margot Robbie; John David Washington
Genre
: Mystery | Drama
Tagline:
Let the love, murder, and conspiracy begin.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I had no idea how small time I was until I met you."
Theatrical Distributor:
20th Century Studios
Official Site: https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/movies/amsterdam
Release Date:
October 7, 2022
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: In the 1930s, three friends witness a murder, are framed for it, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.

Art

Amsterdam (2022)